I’m With Stupid

Brothers Tom (the good son) and Jerry (the bad seed) are about to join their fellow flatlanders for a zero-to-60 weekend of skiing and snowboarding at a skyscraping resort two miles above sea level. Watch as they confront the pitfalls of poor preparation, altitude sickness, dehydration, muscle fatigue, and draft beer. With this survival guide, we'll show you, w

Neal Thompson

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Tom (left) followed U.S. ski team trainer Topper Hagerman’s advice that he mimic the feel of monster-mogul runs by adding three two-minute sprints to his thrice-weekly running or biking program. Two other days a week, he added three sets each of squats, lunges, bench presses, pull-ups, crunches, and back extensions, stretching thoroughly after each workout. Three days before his trip, he cut out the weights to rest his muscles. Jerry (right) played Grand Theft Auto instead.

Above 7,000 feet, dehydration increases, so Tom stayed off the booze, which slows acclimatization. At dinner, he packed in pasta, rice, and potatoes, along with veggies. Jerry went for the sauce.

Tom skipped Leno and turned in early. The thin air made sleep difficult, but he avoided any temptation to pop a Tylenol PM or sleeping pill; such drugs slow down a body’s natural altitude adjustment. Jerry stayed out doing the cabbage patch.

While Jerry guzzled coffee and ordered all the greasy meat on the menu, Tom fueled up on carbs with multigrain cereal and toast, and protein from eggs and dairy to replenish his power. He savored an espresso, keeping it to just one.

Before the lifts opened, Tom slowly walked up and down the ski hill for 15 minutes in his hikers. He finished his warm-up with 20 slow torso rotations. Jerry plopped down to make pretty snow angels.

Illustrations by Oliver Kugler

On his first easy run, Tom kept his boots slightly loose. Then, before his next run, he buckled them snug; he felt as solid and steady as if bolted onto a roller-coaster rail. Jerry went off a double black diamond and tumbled all the way down.

“The fitter you are, the more noticeable the effects of altitude are going to be,” says Benjamin Levine, head of Texas Southwestern Medical Center’s Institute for Exercise. So Tom eased into a morning of green and blue runs. Jerry kept “shredding.”

The windchill hit zero, and Jerry hadn’t felt his toes since noon. Tom, however, had dumped some cayenne pepper down his socks and knocked back a shot of ginger tea. “Seriously, Jerry,” said Tom. “This stuff works.”

Tom stayed sharp, downing a liter of fluids and eating 30 grams of carbohydrates per hour. (A PowerBar has 45 grams, a pack of Gu, 25.) Jerry ate snow, though none of it was yellow.

Jerry should’ve known that it’s no sin to quit at 2 p.m. if you start wiping out on runs you carved with ease earlier. Why? More injuries occur on Saturday afternoon than at any other time of the week.

A hot tub relaxes sore muscles, but soaking for longer than 15 minutes will exhaust, not rejuvenate, the body. Jerry had never heard that one, so he ended up a prune-skinned waste.

Jerry wasn’t hungry, but he should’ve eaten and drunk a liter of water before hitting the bar. Tom enjoyed just three frothy pints, and he wisely quaffed a liter of H20 before bed. Jerry slammed a 12-pack of beer.

It can take as little as three days to acclimatize to 10,000 feet, which meant Sunday—38 hours after Tom and Jerry arrived—was the best time to try that leg-busting halfpipe 540 or huck off a 20-foot-high cornice.

Before stuffing himself into coach class for the flight home, Tom spent 30 minutes stretching, then treated himself to a burger and fries to fuel himself for the long trip. Jerry had to be helped home on a stretcher—not fun. The End.